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Then and Now photos: Liberty Theater

1914 movie house done in by the Fox

Movie ticket prices can be outrageous, but in 1923 someone called the cops. Patrons claimed the Liberty Theater on the 700 block of Riverside jacked up the ticket prices for a new silent film, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” starring Lon Chaney. Manager Ray Grombacher argued that prices were clearly posted at the box office, but city ordinance called for three days’ notice before prices could change. Grombacher was arrested to satisfy angry moviegoers. It didn’t keep him down for long. Businessman Levi “Al” Hutton had built the 900-seat theater for $150,000 in 1914. But when the theater went into foreclosure a few years later, Grombacher formed a company to keep it open. The house had a grand pipe organ to accompany silent films. Talkies, like Al Jolson’s “The Jazz Singer,” took over in 1927. Grombacher lost the theater back to the bank in 1932, after the Liberty and Clemmer theaters were eclipsed by the new Fox Theater. The theater passed through several owners and showed its last movie around 1954. It was replaced with a Lerner clothing store, which lasted until 1992. – Jesse Tinsley


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